Monthly Archives: December 2006

Do Your Homework
Senator John Kerry and that lovable Congressman Charley Rangel both
claim that if you don’t do your homework you’ll flunk out of school
and have to join the Army with all the other losers (I’d love to see
either one of them personally present that theory to Old Greenwich’s
Stephanie Whittle, who turned down Harvard in favor of West Point and
is now flying helicopters with her fellow losers. She’d whup Kerry’s
and Rangel’s flabby butts). But the idea of spending time on
unpleasant tasks does have merit, especially when you’re thinking
about selling your house. Finishing those partial renovations and
sprucing up the yard are always good things to do, but one that’s
rarely done, and can create the most value, is determining whether you
can carve an extra lot from your yard. I hate seeing properties split
up as much as any Greenwich resident but if you’re a homeowner you’re
certainly entitled to do with your land whatever the town’s zoning
laws permit. I think it’s unwise, therefore, to bring a property on
the market with a description, “includes possible extra lot”. If you
have an over-sized yard that could possibly spin off an extra building
lot, you’d be well served by paying for the legal and surveying fees
and finding out. No one likes uncertainty and you’ll gain just about
nothing for a “possible” extra-lot. An officially approved second lot,
however, can be worth millions.

Pricing Strategy?
A fellow puts his house on the market in December last year for
$2,125,000. It doesn’t sell so in March of ’06 he lowers the price to
$1,995,000. Smart move, but it still doesn’t move and so, presumably
to punish the stupid buyers who didn’t recognize its value he raises
the price in May to $2,145,000, more than its original price. Well
that didn’t work either – can’t imagine why not – and last week he
jacked it up again, to $2,195,000. If he keeps this going, we’ll soon
have the first $10,000,000 house in downtown Greenwich. He probably
thinks that the way to end poverty is to raise the minimum wage to
$1,000 per hour, too.

12 Lockwood Road
I’d place this hose in the “mystery” category of great houses that
haven’t sold. Grace McCarty(Prudential) has it listed at $2,495,000
which seems right to me: it’s on a half acre, has a great location,
and yet it’s been on since June, with no takers. Someone’s missing a
bargain here.

And on the Western Side of Town
David Ogilvy has listed 111 Duncan Drive for $2,300,000. The challenge
in selling this house is to get your buyer out of the car – the
Merritt is next door, and, in winter, you can see cars rushing past
not too far away. But forget that, and go inside. The entranceway
opens to a fantastic view of a pond and a great back yard. The house
itself is quiet and of impeccable quality. Everything is completely
up-to-date and, all in all, the house works perfectly. Duncan Drive is
part of the Baliwick community which means you get a swim/tennis club
with the package. Good value, nice house.

Buy This Book!
You’re all invited to a book signing party at Arcadia Coffee House in
Old Greenwich next Monday, December 11th, from 7- 9:00 ish. “My book,
“Greenwich Mean Time”, tells the story of a sorry bunch of
faux-Indians who try passing themselves off as Golden Hill Indians in
Bridgeport and do badly at it until a certain Stamford lawyer rescues
them from obscurity by transforming them into Siwanoys and bringing
them to Tod’s Point so that they can claim the place for their own and
establish a casino. Everyone’s favorite Realtors are here: Prunella
Russell, Davinia Mather Barbie Hopkins and my pal, Martha Kelly (you
get a free book, Martha – sorry to have abused your name). How, you
ask, did I navigate that fine line between satire and offending
Native-American sensitivities? With a Caterpillar DC-10, of course.
The story is an equal opportunity offender, making it a perfect
Christmas gift for almost anyone.

Will those two stalwarts of Greenwich Time, Bernie Yudain and Jerry
Dumas be there? Probably not: I told each of them that the reporter
“Jerry Yudain” was based on the other guy, so their noses are probably
out of joint. But the offer of free wine and food might just lure them
out, who knows? Anyway, come yourself, and have fun.

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Maher Avenue – Barbarians at the Doors
Some years ago a local real estate columnist wrote about what a wonderful place the Mahr Avenue neighborhood (next to Brunswick) was for trick-or-treating. He unleashed a monster. Today, it seems, every Back Country and Westchester County resident loads her kids into the SUV and drops them off to pillage the area. My brother Gideon and his significant other, Suzie, simply shut off their lights and flee; those who stayed behind did not fare well. One neighbor reported that she served 1,100 (I kid you not) bandits. Bad enough were the parents carrying infants and toting adult “gift bags”; the worst were kids who, surveying what this beleaguered homeowner offered, demanded, “what else you got?” This situation will cure itself, of course, as more and more homeowners follow Gideon and Suzie’s example and thus diminish the attractiveness of this area as a source for looting, but what a shame; what had been a great neighborhood tradition has descended into a mire of greed and bad manners.

14 Buena Vista Drive
After writing about multi-million dollar homes, it’s always refreshing to discover a starter home under a million (okay, that’s ridiculous, but …) that’s worth mentioning. Pete Fina, Weichert, has listed a Dutch Colonial on Buena Vista Drive for $839,000 that I think is well priced and, in fact, a bargain. Buena Vista’s a really nice street in Glenville; quiet and filled with kids. This house has four bedrooms, two baths and is already rough-plumbed to accommodate a master bathroom, which I’d do, as a new owner. Not much of a yard, given its 0.11 acreage, but what are you going to do? It is, as they say, what it is, and I liked it.

Greenwich Shellfish Commission
When I was a very young kid I used to dig for steamers at the Riverside Yacht Club beach. That ended around 1963 when the health Department got around to sampling our local waters and was apparently horrified at what it found. Ooops; no wonder I turned out the way I did. But time, and pollution control marches on and in 1986 Lucy Jineshian, Dan Barrett, Bill Crane and Scott Wakeman (and Sue Baker, soon after), began a long campaign to reopen our waters for shell fishing. This band of volunteers spent more than five years procuring water samples and delivering them to the state health authorities before finally achieving their goal. The Shell Fish Commission recently hosted a twenty-year anniversary celebrating those efforts at, fittingly enough, The Riverside Yacht Club. A grand time was had by all but I’m writing this to remind, or inform you all that clams, mussels and oysters are waiting for your taking at Tod’s and other locations around town. You need a permit ($15, at Town Hall or Sportsmen’s Den) and implement of destruction like a rake or fork, a bucket, a size ring so you don’t grab under-sized clams and probably a pair of rubber boots. That’s it. It’s a great way to get outside on otherwise dreary winter days and it’s something kids especially seem to enjoy doing with their parents. Beats standing on the sideline of a soccer field, in my opinion.

What to be a volunteer warden? Call the Commission at 622-7777 (or check out greenwichct.org/shellfish/shellfish.asp (hey, I didn’t come up with such an awkward address) for additional information, including clamming locations, tide charts (you’ll want to do this at low tide, duh) etc. I can’t vouch for the payment wardens receive but you do get a nifty hat, much improved over the original, and it offers other benefits. I was speeding through Damarascotta, Maine late one night when I was pulled over by a trooper. I couldn’t immediately locate my driver’s license so I proffered my clam warden’s card instead. “Clam Warden, eh?” he said, “well slow down!” Yessir. I can’t guarantee this trick will work in an inland location but heck – better than nothing.

And Speaking of Waterfront
Anne Simpson just listed a fantastic piece of it at 20 Shoreham Club Drive in Old Greenwich for $6,900,000. Great house but even better views so my guess is that (a) it will sell quickly and (b) it’ll be torn down and replaced by some 10,000 sq.ft. eye sore. Well, what do you expect to happen to a house built as long ago as 1984? The thing’s obsolete!

Book Party!
I’ll be signing copies of “Greenwich Meantime” at Arcadia Coffee House Monday, December 11, 7:30 – 9:00. Food, wine, fun, I hope.

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